With Trump as President, What Will Women's Philanthropy Do?

Well, here we are in America in 2016, where an openly racist, anti-feminist xenophobe has won the Oval Office. What will women’s philanthropy do?

“We are doubling down,” said Teresa C. Younger, president of the Ms. Foundation for Women. “The activist community, the social justice community and the women’s fundings community will be calling on the Trump administration to pay close attention to the lives of women and girls.”

Women’s philanthropy was on a roll leading up to all this. In fact, working with the White House earlier this year, women’s funds across the country had made their largest commitment ever, Prosperity Together, to empower low-income women. A Hillary Clinton presidency would have further elevated this work. Now what will happen to this movement?

“Prosperity Together is not going anywhere. We made a commitment of $100 million over five years, and it is totally irrelevant who is sitting in The White House,” said Younger. In fact, Younger said the first year of Prosperity Together, which the foundation will be reporting on next week, shows how well these dollars are already enhancing the lives of low-income women and girls across the country.

Prosperity Together, a coalition of 28 women’s foundations across the country, was launched with an announcement and all-day conference titled “Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color” at The White House last November, but Younger stressed that the initiative is  nonpartisan and not dependent on federal support.

A small survey of women’s philanthropy leaders and foundations yielded a range of responses. Many expressed concern about the tone of Trump’s campaign, and how little he appears to appreciate or understand women’s experiences. Some were more reconciled to the fact that Trump will be in charge and they will need to work with his administration.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with a Trump Administration to build a state and nation grounded in Hope, Generosity, and Inclusion – core values that represent the three-chambered heart of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota,” said Lee Roper Batker, its president and CEO, in a statement responding to the election.

The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota also intends to have its young women take the lead and plans to have “actionable strategies” in place by April 2017 to “build equity in outcomes for Minnesotans who experience the greatest disparities: young women of color, young women from greater Minnesota, LGTBQ youth, and young women with disabilities.”

Harnisch Foundation founder Ruth Ann Harnisch posted a response the day after the election, calling attention to the major cultural shift that the surprise presidency of Donald Trump brings. “There will be books written about this election – and its lasting effects on women and girls and the other marginalized communities and causes that the Harnisch Foundation seeks to support and uplift.”

A statement from Harnisch Foundation today provided reassurance that its work will endure. “The Harnisch Foundation is going to keep doing what it has always done: support the advancement of equality and inclusion. We’ll continue to invest in progressive media and film, knowing its power to influence what we think is normal, what we talk about, and what we think is right or wrong. Through leadership development programs like Funny Girls  and mentoring programs like Women at Sundance and Chicken & Egg fellows, we’ll be increasing our investments in intersectional feminism.”

Natalie Rekstad, a board trustee of the Colorado Women’s Foundation and a member of Women Moving Millions, talked about reframing the experience to amplify our own empowerment. “We are, all of us, powerful, and can change the narrative around what the election means to us personally and as a country. It can be a profound source of awakening.”

Rekstad encouraged women to get more involved in organizations that will be threatened by a Trump presidency. “Now more than ever, it matters very much how we show up in the world, and in our homes. Our sons and daughters are watching.”